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In Praise of Alternative Media

Five podcasts that make you think.

by James Leroy Wilson
October 29, 2009

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In Praise of Alternative Media

Several years ago I read a magazine profile of the magic/comedy act Penn & Teller. One day in Vegas, they were invited to two different events on the same night:

  • A party with A-list celebrities and lots of Playboy models.
  • A show passing through town featuring housecats doing tricks.

They chose to see the cats.

At first glance, it seems like an eccentric choice. But on second thought, it only makes sense. There are lots of celebrities and the vast majority of women are already pretty and sexy - or can be. But a trained housecat? That's rare.

Penn & Teller had to choose how to spend their time. They knew they would probably get invited to A-list parties in the future. They also knew they'd also have to go out of their way to see a trained housecat show. This night, they didn't have to go out of their way. They chose to take advantage and see the housecats.

Like Penn & Teller, we all have to choose how we spend our time. Some choices may appear to be eccentric. If I had to choose between watching an episode of the greatest sitcom of all time, or listen to a podcast about how the moon landing was fake, what am I going to choose?

With greater frequency, I choose the latter. I can work out, clean the house, or perform menial tasks while listening to podcasts. With a sitcom, I'm compelled to sit and watch. I may laugh a lot - and laughter is good and healthy - but I won't be smarter or more satisfied with life when the show is over. My mind would not have been expanded by someone with information, ideas, or perspectives that challenge my own beliefs.

I listen to alternative media not because I believe people with alternative theories and worldviews are always correct. I listen to see whether what they have to say makes sense. I find alternative media to be interesting and entertaining.

And there are a few additional reasons . . .

  • The Austrian model of economics seems to be the only one which is both inherently rational and which incorporates the theory of money into an overall rational theory of human action. Yet, it has been rejected by the "mainstream" economics profession.
  • The Constitution of the United States of America, taken literally, seems to forbid the federal government from doing most of what it does today. Yet the legal community, including the federal courts and Supreme Court (not to mention Congress and the Presidency) seem to go along with interpretations of the Constitution that don't seem to make sense literally. And their rationales always seem tortured and illogical.
  • The Christian theological community seems to take certain assumptions as fact. Examples: translating what literally should be "whoredom " to "fornication" instead. Or, what literally should be "the heavens" is translated to "heaven." Even when there isn't any evidence at all for a position, such as "the Bible condemns polygamy" the Bible is interpreted that way because the Apostle Paul says that church elders should have only one wife. To me, that means church elders shouldn't be tied down by having to manage large households with several wives and children. To modern Christians, it means the government should meddle in marriage, and force women with biological imperatives to marry losers because of the lack of options.

    (It's not that I endorse polygamy or would want to be married to more than one wife - no sane man would. The question is whether there is really a moral prohibition against it, and where Christians come off thinking the government should be involved in sexual and household relationships.)

I have at least some familiarity with economics, Constitutional law, and Christian theology, yet the "mainstream views" and "widely-accepted scholarship" on these issues do not make any sense whatsoever.

It makes me wonder about issues I am less familiar with. The "accepted science" on many issues was funded by the government - by politicians. Do scientists repeat pre-conceived conclusions? Are anomalies "statistically insignificant" or do they disprove commonly-accepted theories? I am more and more convinced that government-funded scientific research is no more reliable than government-funded theological research would be.

And, of course, there are questions like, "How in the world did Building 7 collapse?" and "Why did the U.S. invade Iraq? Is Dick Cheney really that stupid?"

It makes one wonder. And if you combine such wonder with old childhood fascinations with Bigfoot, the Bermuda Triangle, ghosts, etc. then one is naturally drawn to alternative media. When one finds the world to be weird and inexplicable, one naturally is drawn to those who attempt to provide answers.

To that end, I am providing my five favorite "alternative" podcasts. Please don't view the following as a ranking. I have arranged them alphabetically.

5. Binnall of America  Tim Binnall seems more fascinated with UFO's than I am, but there are also great episodes regarding Bigfoot, the Bermuda Triangle, Columbine, and much else.
4. Gnostic Media  Jan Irvin explores the religious and political. Was Jesus a metaphor for a mushroom? At first glance, the idea seems ridiculous, but there is as much data that confirms this theory as there is for other theories as to what Jesus was/is. Irvin also brings on many guests who disagree with him, yet the conversations remain civil and productive.
3. Occult of Personality  Sometimes this podcast gets really heavy into occult subjects that may be strange to the uninitiated - including me. At the same time, it often has fascinating guests who can broaden your worldview.
2. Paranormal Podcast  While the focus of Jim Harold's show is on the "spooky" such as ghosts, overall it provides very interesting content including subjects from autism to government control of the weather.
1. Red Ice Radio  Henrik Palmgren's  show is the most prolific and wide-ranging, usually providing two hours of free content per week and an additional two hours of paid content. Listening to the special free, two-hour interview with Brian Gerrish on Neuro-Lingustic Programming may be the most chillng and important two hours you spend all year.

For each of these shows, I recommend that you visit the archives of each site and listen to episodes of interest to you.

I don't necessarily agree with some of the assumptions of these hosts, let alone of their guests. What's important is, they make you think. Thinking is the key to freedom, and freedom is the key to a happy life.

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